The Group 1 Sportsbet Melbourne Cup ‘dream’ is very much alive for veteran Victorian trainer Daryl Holmes after El Dorado claimed qualifying honours in Saturday night’s ‘electric’ Cup heats at Sandown Park.
The inaugural $4.1 million Sportsbet Dream Chasers Festival continued with eight ‘must win’ heats of the $650,000 to-the-winner Melbourne Cup, with thunder and lightning seeing a delay after the opening heat.
When action resumed, series heavyweights She’s A Pearl and Wow She’s Fast were both eliminated, as El Dorado produced the standout performance on the clock, racing away with the third heat in 29.35sec.
“Real professional dog; he tries his heart out,” Daryl Holmes told James Van de Maat on Racing.com.
WATCH: “El Dorado will go for the gold!” EL DORADO (B2) careered away from his rivals to set the pace in Saturday night’s Melbourne Cup heats, clocking 29.345sec.
El Dorado later drew box 7 for next Saturday night’s Cup Final.
“It is what it is. He’s won a few races before out of seven and eight,” said Holmes.
Paddy Wants Pats, trained by Kelly Bravo, was similarly impressive in leading throughout in heat five, posting the equal fastest first split of the night (5.01sec) in his 29.41sec victory, with superstar favourite Wow She’s Fast running sixth.
David Geall will take aim at back-to-back Cup victories and his third in five years, after Fernando Mick won the final heat in 29.40sec, the 89-start veteran having his second crack at the race, after running third in last year’s heats.
“What a thrill to make another Cup. You don’t get used to it,” Geall said.
“He’s a little beauty. He can handle any box these days. Of course he had to jump fast but gee he’s going good at the moment.”
Thompson is one of three trainers to have won the Cup on three occasions, courtesy of Light Of Fire (1994), Got A Moment (2012) and Black Magic Opal (2013), while wife Seona was victorious with Aston Dee Bee (2017).
SPORTSBET MELBOURNE CUP HEAT WINNERS (fastest to slowest)
29.35sec EL DORADO (Daryl Holmes, Blind Bight VIC)
29.38sec YACHI BALE (Mark Delbridge, Balliang VIC)
29.40sec FERNANDO MICK (David Geall, Lara VIC)
29.41sec PADDY WANTS PATS (Kelly Bravo, Freshwater Creek VIC)
29.45sec ZIPPY TESLA (Brad Keel, Anakie VIC)
29.57sec TITAN BLAZER (Daniel Gibbons, Avalon VIC)
29.63sec VICE GRIP (Adam Smithson, Nambeelup WA)
29.66sec PLAINTIFF (Jason Thompson, Pearcedale VIC)
Plaintiff may have posted the ‘slowest’ heat time, but he was the big winner in the box draw, with owner/breeder Vince Tullio selecting box 1, from where the son of Zambora Brockie, beaten favourite behind Ando’s Mac in the 2016 Cup Final, has a perfect four from four record.
“That’s a good feeling isn’t it!” said Tullio.
“I’ll be honest. I thought he was gone tonight because I didn’t think he could come from behind. But he’s a dog that if he nails it, he can break five seconds and he’ll run 18.40sec up the back. He can move, the dog.
“I’ve been involved now for about 12 years, and I think everyone dreams of getting in a Melbourne Cup, let alone winning one.”
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